In a discussion of attitude for optimal performance, it would be difficult to overstate the importance of having fun. Having fun is a foreign concept to no one, yet athletes often forget to do it. Fun happens when the athlete is in the moment. She does not arrive at fun. She is either having fun or she is not. Letting go of concern for outcomes allows enjoyment to happen.
Enjoyment, practice, success, pain, “failure,” winning, losing, and achievement are all part of the athlete”s process of finding out how good she can be. The process can simultaneously be tiring and fun, exciting and fun, nerve-wracking and fun, even painful and fun. It would be difficult, however, to have fun while being frustrated, impatient, lethargic, annoyed, angry, stubborn, or resentful. Softball should almost always be fun so athletes must work on their skill at avoiding these negative emotions.
Practice should be fun. Augie Garrido says, “Enjoy building the ingredients of success.” Short periods may occur in which it is not loads of fun, but generally speaking, athletes should have a good attitude about working at their task. Some drills will certainly be more fun than others, but if every athlete reminds herself why she does them, she can learn to enjoy them all. Frequent reminders to maintain an enthusiastic attitude may be necessary. Very short-term goals help when the going gets tough. For some, learning to love a challenge takes a bit of time, but it can be done.
Consistently giving best effort performances at practice and in games is difficult. Difficult and fun do not typically go together. However, it is good that it is difficult because in softball, for one team to win, the other has to lose. As the proverb goes, “if you want to get things that others won’t get, you have to do things that others won’t do.” Most teams do not consistently practice at the edge of their ability levels both physically and mentally. They do not embrace challenges and stay positive through adversity. Most teams will sweat and bleed, but most do not know how to ‘win’ the mental side of the game every day. They do not have the courage to give their best effort one step at a time, accept whatever happens, and do it again.
Quite a few athletes only have fun when they get positive outcomes. This perspective is not healthy. Of course it is more fun to do well than to do poorly, and it is fine for enjoyment to increase when outcomes are superb. However, the game should be inherently fun. “I love making a diving catch,” or “I love the feeling of hitting a round ball with a round bat squarely,” is much better than “I love softball.” Inherent enjoyment of softball allows the athlete to create the fun attitude before she has any positive outcomes to lean on. The athlete who needs to play well to have any confidence and enjoyment is doomed to inconsistency.
Finally, when an athlete comes to the end (of the game, season, or her career), she should enjoy the last performance most. It is what she has prepared for. Her preparation included almost immeasurable hard work. It also included the pain of setbacks, the challenges of adjustments, and the satisfaction of achievements. It would make no sense not to enjoy the culmination of such an effort. Some people may perceive enormous pressure and forget the joys that this moment holds, but the mentally strong athlete will not. Whatever outcomes lie ahead, this performance will define how good she can be at this point in her life. If she has no regrets about her preparation, then she has already succeeded. Hopefully, this peace of mind and her natural ability will be enough to provide the outcome that she has dreamed of, but either way, she is a winner in the eyes of mature observers, herself the most important among them. The entire process of approaching her potential has been fun, but no experience could be more fun than this culminating moment. When you arrive at the mountaintop, enjoy the view!
|Aaron Weintraub holds a B.A. from Emory University (1993) and a M.Ed. from the University of Virginia (2000). He served as an assistant baseball coach for 13 years before starting www.CoachTraub.com, a consulting business whose mission is to over-deliver value on goods and services designed to help you win the mental side of the game. He works with teams and individuals, adding clarity to help them get what they want for their sport. CoachTraub.com also runs camps and clinics and has an online store.Weintraub is the author of Coaches Guide to Winning the Mental Game (Coaches Choice, 2009) and An Elite Athlete’s Manual for Training Mental Skills (self-published, 2011). He lives in The Colony, TX with his wife, Nicole, and their four children.|
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